A federal judge in New York has ordered Tesla CEO Elon Musk and U.S. securities regulators to meet for at least an hour to try and settle a dispute over Musk’s tweets which have been taken in the wrong taste.
Judge Alison Nathan also told both sides Friday to send her a letter by April 18 saying whether they have reached a deal. If they don’t, Nathan will decide on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s motion to find Musk in contempt, leading to a trial which could create trouble for Musk’s conglomerate.
The SEC wants Nathan to fine Musk for allegedly violating a court-approved settlement requiring his tweets to be approved by a lawyer if they disclose important company facts. Musk’s lawyers say he didn’t violate the settlement and they stand firm on it.
The judge also wrote that if Musk is found in contempt, both sides will write legal briefs about his punishment and decide upon the punishment.
The order comes after Nathan urged both sides to agree at a hearing in New York that Musk attended on Thursday.
SEC attorney Cheryl Crumpton recommended fines for Musk if Nathan finds him in contempt of the October settlement. The SEC alleges that Musk blatantly violated the settlement with a Feb. 19 tweet about Tesla vehicle production that wasn’t approved by the company’s “disclosure counsel.” The agency contends that Musk hasn’t sought the lawyer’s approval for a single tweet he has posted.
But Musk attorney John Hueston told the judge that the SEC had failed to show his client had violated the deal. He said Musk does what he is told and is “somebody trying his best to comply.”
Musk’s lawyers say his tweet that Tesla would produce around 500,000 vehicles this year didn’t need pre-approval because it wasn’t new information that would be meaningful to investors. His attorneys said the SEC was violating his First Amendment rights to free speech and dialogue.
In a statement after the hearing, Musk signaled he is willing to work out a deal.
“We have always felt that we should be able to work through any disagreements directly with the SEC, rather than prematurely rushing to court,” he said.